Aha! Fallout 4 has finally been announced. This gives me a justifiable reason to write a Fallout entry, so the “slobbering fanboy” stamp can only be faintly applied to my forehead.
Okay, so let’s meet the obligatory spreading of hype before we get to my self-indulgent fun time. If you haven’t already seen the trailer for Fallout 4, you can find it at Fallout4.com. But let’s face it, you’ve already seen it, bitched about what’s sticking out of that Deathclaw’s back, did a double take at what appears to be the Mysterious Stranger sauntering down a noir-like post-apocalyptic street (which better be in the game, and hopped on the Fallout subreddit to gush. Hurray! Splendid! Jolly well done!
Now that we’ve dispensed with the giddy crap (which will resume in you probably hallway through this sentence, so I can really say what I want… humble flubble prop!), I wanted to take this opportunity to gush about one of my favorite parts of the Fallout franchise: Ghouls.
No wasteland is quite right without a healthy Ghoul population. With the loss of their skin due to radiation poisoning (don’t think about that too much), a voice like Nolan’s Batman whilst chain-smoking and the ever-present risk of turning feral looming overhead, Ghouls are reviled across practically all cultures in the wastelands; that is saying something in a universe where some asshole programmed a radio station A.I. to repeatedly play the song “Johnny Guitar” for people who have already suffered enough.
Ghouls are a pretty good conduit for exploring themes of discrimination, doom, loneliness, hopelessness and comradery. After striking out from the D.C. ghoul haven of Underworld, and the care of his adoptive mother, Gob is found banging desperately on a static-ridden radio to seep out a bit more distraction from his wage slavery to Moriarty in the Megaton’s Saloon. Scarred and maddened ghouls wander the skeleton of Bakersfield, helping to create their reputation as flesh-eating zombies, before being rampaged by hulking mutants. Deep in the Mojave, a cult of the dejected find hope in their leader’s plan to build rockets that will lift them to their promised land. These are a few examples of what this race adds to your wasteland wandering.
Moreover, Ghouls, with their extended lifespan (again, don’t overthink it), offer expansive historical and cultural insights. If nothing else, their experiences make them deliciously jaded, and you may find yourself laughing out loud at their sardonic humour.
So, without any further distractions, I would like to give you a list of my five favorite Ghouls from Fallouts 3 and New Vegas:
After pumping these characters, I don’t blame you for rolling your eyes at this pick. Willow is the sentry for Underworld, which is situated in the old Museum of History in Downtown D.C. She is mostly there to establish where you are and what kind of relationship the Ghouls have with the outside world (spoiler: not a good one). What makes her so endearing to me is how laid back she is. Here she is in the middle of a warzone as the lone guard of a city full of the most hated kind of wastelander, and she is doesn’t so much as draw at the Lone Wanderer. Instead she confidently struts about her patrol, greets you, makes fun of you, makes fun of the giant Super Mutants that menace the area, then calls the other faction of hulking soldiers in power armor “those other assholes”. Why isn’t she a more fleshed out character, and why is she not a possible companion? I need more Willow in my life!
#4 Beatrix Russell
Gun-toting cowgirl guard, booze enthusiast, and BDSM dom… I present to you, Miss Beatrix Russell. Again, the question is, “why can’t you recruit her as a companion?” Can we at least go on an optional bender with her that leaves you waking up naked in Cottonwood Cove’s slave pen with five thoroughly sodomized legionnaires scattered around your hungover carcass?
Mod community? Am I missing something?
#3 Dean Domino
Little bit Rat Pack, an little bit Oceans Eleven, Dean Domino is a pre-war star with a silver tongue and a knack for explosives. Seriously, he kills things with explosives. He even threatens to blow your ass through your head when you first meet him. He’s kind of a dick, but he’s also got the smoothest sense of humour and a slick charm that can win you over, even if he is a raging hard-on.
Carol offers you a glimpse of what D.C. was like when the bombs fell, and the harrowing days afterwards. By describing her seeking refuge, losing her skin and hair and Ghouls banding together to form Underworld, she gives you a good once-over of the depressing birth of the Capital Wasteland.
She is also goddamn sweet. Grandma-level sweet. I have to kill Moriarty every play-through, because I can’t stand the idea of her finding out Gob is a slave in Megaton. And don’t you go telling that sweet old woman such terrible news, you bastard!
The Old School Ghoul.
Raul is easily one of the best companions you can have in Fallout: New Vegas. Aside from his handy mechanical skills, Raul is an unstoppable sarcastic force of nature that will take the piss out of everything you accomplish or hope to accomplish in the wasteland. There are times I will stop in the middle of the Mojave and repeatedly engage the dialogue options. His smartass remarks never disappoint.
As if that wasn’t enough, he, like Carol, is a pre-war Ghoul with a story. In fact, his post-war experiences from Mexico City to Nevada provide him with a rich background, which he shares with the Courier as they travel the wasteland. Not to spoil anything, but if you play New Vegas, you have to finish his Old School Ghoul quest.